So, yeah, wow, it’s 2007 and we’re having format wars. Hmm, that’s not entirely true. We, the people, are not a war at all. In face, we, the people, don’t care. The people who care, who desperately care, are the businesses who have staked the ground on either the HD-DVD or Blu-Ray side of the fence. To them, the battles and strategy matter very much. It’s almost like they’re holding a modern war in another century.
I’m doing the masochist thing at this year’s SXSWi (as augmented by the film festival) and attending all of the “The Future of…” panels. Sure, it’s hard to take “The Future of Online Video” seriously, when nascent barely begins to describe the phenomenon, but when the panel is about The Future of DVDs, well, now you have my attention. The future of DVD, as we all know, is keeping way too many media executives awake at night to count.
Not that you’d know it from this panel.
As our esteemed nation moves closer and closer to a high-definition world, certain perils are being exposed. Never mind that you’ll see every wrinkle and line. Don’t worry that pimples will be seen where flawless skin once reigned. There are real problems: the one industry that has arguably done more than any other to drive consumer acceptance of new technology is issuing warnings against HD:
Producers are taking steps to hide the imperfections. Some shots are lit differently, while some actors simply are not shot at certain angles, or are getting cosmetic surgery, or seeking expert grooming.
“The biggest problem is razor burn,” said Stormy Daniels, an actress, writer and director.
Ms. Daniels is also a skeptic. “I’m not 100 percent sure why anyone would want to see their porn in HD,” she said.
In other news, Sony has decided to go porn-free with its Blu-Ray product. Apparently mass-producing porn violates long-standing company policy. Sure, the decision will drive producers to other formats, but, hey, policy is policy.
Never let it be said that we don’t bring you all the news you need.
After no doubt unfurling a huge banner in its offices that said “Mission Accomplished,” the Blu-ray Disc Association has declared that major combat operations in the Hi Def DVD Wars are over, and Blu-ray is the victor.
Oh yeah? Sorry, Blu-ray Disc Association, but I think that you are obviously suffering from an extreme case of “premature evictoration:” the declaration of a victory long before your opponent has actually been vanquished. As if just saying you won makes it so.
Sure, some of your backers might buy your load of B.S. — because you’re saying what they desperately need to hear — but it’s entirely possible that three-four years from now, you’ll still be bogged down in the trenches, begging for a surge in advertising dollars that will hopefully spur sales.
We rag on Microsoft a lot around here. Zune, particularly, has come in for a lot of pre-sale criticism from these quarters. So we should praise them when they do something right. And today’s announcement that they have set up a deal with several studios to offer downloads directly to their Xbox Live service in just a couple of weeks smacks a whole hell of a lot of doing things right.
It’s an idea that only those who instinctively dislike everything Microsoft does could hate.
So, I’m out for an evening of fun, and the conversation rapidly turns to digital media. A woman leans forward, her hand wrapped around her frou-frou drink and says, “Our studio is going with Blu-Ray. Do you think that’s a mistake?”
Yes, Virginia, I do. I think it’s short-sighted, in this day and age, for a major motion picture studio to lock itself into a single format. Sure, Hollywood has been spoiling for a format war since the bruising battles between Beta and VHS, but times have changed, and format exclusivity is a potential death knell for a studio’s DVD business — and let’s face it, with DVD sales going the way they are (that would be down), the motion picture industry doesn’t need more barriers between it and consumer dollars.